Highly rated City Academy in Homerton under fire for 'draconian' discipline
PUBLISHED: 12:27 16 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:44 17 June 2016
A top academy has been accused of oppressing special needs students after one boy had his phone confiscated, having been spotted using it two miles from school on his way home.
The City Academy was second in the country for student progress last year, and its special educational needs (SEN) children perform way above average. But its “innovative” methods have been questioned by parents, with reports of children soiling themselves in class when refused permission to use the toilet.
One parent said it acted “outside of its jurisdiction” when the school took his son’s phone after being tipped off by a staff member who saw him with it at Stratford train station last month.
The boy uses it to let his dad know he has arrived at, or left, the academy in Homerton Row, but the school bans students bringing phones in to school without a prior agreement.
Under the rules, confiscated phones are then kept until the end of the half term – up to six weeks. The boy was also handed a two-hour detention for his troubles.
“They don’t treat criminals like that,” said the parent. “My son goes to school – it’s not a prison.”
Specialists at Hackney Learning Trust have since advised the school to let the boy use his phone. Principal Mark Emmerson told the Gazette he had attempted to contact the boy’s dad to come to an arrangement.
The school has had three special educational needs coordinators (Sencos) in 18 months and a parents’ group has been set up by the school to discuss the problems.
Mr Emmerson said “radical changes” had been made to address concerns and things were now improving.
Minutes from a parents’ meeting in February, seen by the Gazette, refer to a host of problems, including the instances of students soiling themselves, which Mr Emmerson said happened once and was “incredibly regrettable”.
They also say one child racked up 22 hours’ detention in six weeks and another asked for earplugs as their teacher was always shouting.
The academy opened in 2009 on the site of the failing Homerton House school and Mr Emmerson’s changes have proved successful.
As well as their phones, students are banned from using “street language” and a “family dining” system sees them eat with teachers.
Mr Emmerson said: “The SEN students in our school have better progress than nearly every other school. Their performance is extremely good. We know we do a fantastic job and there are difficulties but we are very strong about boundaries for children.
“There’s actually very little shouting. We are very strict, we don’t deny that, but we are also very warm and open.”